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tv   [untitled]    February 25, 2012 11:30pm-12:00am EST

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so, the crimean experience certainly gave mcclellan as a trained engineer who had also helped with the siege at veracruz, mexico, a better idea the difficulties of siege craft. i don't think it had a direct impact that showed up in textbooks in west point or in manuals for the u.s. army to use in the field just six years later. >> let's go to asheville, north carolina. one more call here for john mountcastle. good afternoon to jay. >> caller: yes, sir, thanks for taking my call. my question is regarding secretary stanton. was he not extremely exasperated from time to time with mcclellan and did he not say that if he had a million men, he would sit in the mud and whine until he could get 2 million? and i'll take my answer off the air. thank you. >> thank you, jay. >> yes, jay, that's a great point. edwin stanton had been very much
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in favor of the promotion of george mcclellan to commanding general of the army as opposed to the defeated irwin mcdowell and the aged winfield scott. but as soon as they began to work closely together, friction developed here. stanton was a republican. mcclellan was a -- what was then called a war democrat, someone who was in favor of certainly restoring the union, but not much else. and so they had different political views, different personalities, and stanton did complain, mcclellan always wanted more men and he wanted them yesterday. and so that's why after the failure to take richmond in 1862, mcclellan was ordered to begin shipping his army back up to the washington area and was not reinforced for a second try in richmond. it wouldn't be until grant came in 1864 that richmond would hear cannons just outside its gates once again. >> john mountcastle thank you for taking time and spending with our viewers here on "american history tv."
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>> i appreciate it. and i appreciate the great questions. >> john mountcastle's nomination once again was george b. mcclellan. he's the fourth out of five historians who will nominate person of the year 1862 here at the library of virginia in richmond, and we will go back in just a moment to hear from emery thomas, professor of history emeritus from the university of georgia. the nominees are frederick douglass, stonewall jackson, admiral david farragut and george mcclellan. you're watching live all-day coverage on "american history tv" on c-span3.
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>> ladies and gentlemen, if you could return to your seats and let us get restarted. is the mike not on yet? okay, good. the mike's on? okay. ladies and gentlemen, let's get restarted. gee whiz, jack mountcastle, george mcclellan, what an interesting choice. it's my great pleasure to introduce our fifth and final nominator, emery thomas. he drove up from athens, georgia, where he's a professor of history emeritus at the university of georgia, but he's really coming home.
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he and his wife fran are native richmonders. as a matter of fact, emery starred on the thomas jefferson high school football team as the center and the quarterback was james henry benford p.iii who is now the superintendent at the virginia military institute. emery went from thomas jefferson to the university of virginia, where he was a two-sports star. one as the center on the football team, and two is the captain of the party team at the deke house. emery has written widely and perceptively on many aspects of confederate history and biography including the volume about the confederacy in the new american nation series, an acclaimed biographies of jeb stewart and robert e. lee. he's an old friend of the museum of the confederacy and has written and lectured about the museum itself and its role in civil war memory. his latest work "the dogs of war
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1861" is a collection of essays that are apropos of the civil war sesquicentennial, he'll be in virginia in april lecturing about jeb stewart at the university of mary washington. great live series on april 3rd. today he'll be nominating -- i can't say it, i'll let him tell you. but, emery, if you get up here and talk about jon bankhead mcgruder, i'll cut you short and we'll get on with robert e. lee. >> thank you very much. you didn't mention some embarrassing things. fortunately. i did some work on "time's" person of the year before coming here.
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i thought it would be a better look if i could see what they'd done to maybe project your voting this most influential person in 1862. supposedly this -- i mean, journalistic legend has it that it was a slow news week in 1927, and "time" was smarting because they had failed to put charles lindbergh on their cover. when he flew across the atlantic. and so they had to do something, and so they decided, oh, let's have a man of the year and made charles lindbergh the first. it was so popular that they've had others, one each year and changed it to person.
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interestingly enough there are no historians have made this team. unless -- unless -- we count gabor borat. in 1956 "time" had the hungarian freedom fighters, and gabor, i don't know how much freedom fighting he did, but i know he fled hungary in 1956. that's the closest we get to an historian making person of the year. they're not many rebels of consequence or the ones that are are of great consequence, gandhi, ayatollah khomeini made the team and generated considerable criticism and "time" had to jump up and down and say influence, influence,
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influence in defending their choice. martin luther king. not many american southerners who were not presidents of the united states, lyndon johnson and jimmy carter, except martin luther king, ben bernanke, clinton, south carolina. no, not clinton, south carolina, dillon, south carolina, south of the border. [ laughter ] supposedly it was his first job. ted turner. and newt gingrich. and that's -- i don't know if that's a stretch or not, whether he was -- is or should be a southerner. because he was born in pennsylvania i think. just because he represented georgia and taught at west georgia. well, anyway. "time" has tended until very
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recent years to be a very conservative, very loose, lucite publication you might say tending towards republicans and consensus sorts of people. chiang kai-shek made man of the year in 1937, madam chian made the team. mao tse-tung never made person of the year. when "time" decided to acknowledge the american woman in 1975, they had some significant people, billie jean king and others, but they somehow in their list of folks on the cover or pictures of people on the cover overlooked betty fredan and gloria steinem. this is a pretty establishment, up east sort of people.
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and so i wonder about nominating someone. the person i'm going to nominate, however, achieved probably the first thing he did in 1862 of great consequence was to frame some legislation that transformed a modern industrial nation, would-be industrial, would-be nation into a modern nation. framed in legislation. this person also near the end of 1862 laid some claim to be a significant emancipator of slaves. and so the person i'm nominating, you all have figured
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out by now, this creator of a modern nation, this emancipator of slaves, was robert edward lee. pause for applause. [ laughter ] let me suggest some of the context here in which lee functioned. because through the first year of the american civil war, which includes half of -- if it started at fort sumter in april of 1861, then the first year -- the first year includes a piece of 1862. lee was undelivered promise. he was from a family of reduced means and the son of lighthorse harry lee who was a rascal.
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there was once a man named lee, a a frustrated liberal was he, a son of a hero with cash flow subzero and a blight on the family tree. winfield scott had proclaimed lee the best soldier i ever saw in the field. and i would suggest he was the sin qua none of victory in the mexican war. he turned down the field command of the united states army offered by scott through lincoln. but during the first year of the war, he was probably the least influential great man that existed. he raised and equipped and trained virginia troops, but then turned them over to the confederate army and became a general with no soldiers.
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he was a semiconsultant, and that's my analysis, presided over the loss of the valley of what is now west virginia and some virginians will suggest that wasn't much loss. [ laughter ] in any event, he did lose in the first campaign that he oversaw. he commanded the confederate department of south carolina, georgia, and florida. arrived just as the federal army or navy essentially, dupont, captured port royal and secured hilton head so yankees could retire there. [ laughter ]
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and lee himself in analyzing the military circumstance along the atlantic coast decided there was no way to defend the low country, the sea islands, which was, of course, the site of where the wealth and the power was in south carolina, georgia, and florida, and sea island cotton and the rice plantations and all the rest. lee said, no, we can't protect you. we'll have to withdraw up the rivers and then build forts where we can secure the mainland. as lee expressed in a letter to his daughter, our people -- and he was talking about our people where he was -- have not been earnest enough, have not -- have thought too much of themselves and their ease, and instead of turning to a man have been content to nurse themselves, their dimes, and leave the protection of themselves and families to others.
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so, lee was concerned that the people he supposedly commanded weren't earnest enough in their conduct of this war. mary chestnut, the famed confederate diarist summed it up, low country gentlemen curse lee, she wrote. and so then in march of 1862, he returned to richmond as a kind of sort of advisor to jefferson davis. maybe an incipient chief of staff, something that the confederate army certainly needed. and what had become of the
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confederacy during this time that lee had undergone frustration and failure? well, the confederacy in january of 1862 -- this is all '62 now. lost mill springs, kentucky. they'd lost roanoke island. remember, roanoke island is famous for being the site of the lost colony. this was in 1587-'89. well, in 1862, in february, there was a lost colony there, too, and it was about 2,500 conferside's 10,000 federal. so he lost mill springs. lost roanoke island as jack montcastle has pointed out, the confederacy has lost forts henry and donaldson on the tennessee and cumberland rivers.
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and what that does is open the tennessee, the cumberland, too, if they wanted it, to union penetration by combined arms, navy, army. up the tennessee river as far as they want to go, chattanooga if they'd like. what it did was eventually result in the battle of shiloh, well, pittsburgh landing. which the confederates lost, too, as well as p-ridge in arkansas. so, you lose a good hunk of arkansas and any chance to make missouri a bona fide, de facto confederate state. jefferson davis in his inaugural speech delivered not too far from here on february 22nd, a few days ago, george washington's birthday, not by
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chance, said this is the darkest hour of our struggle. and our struggle in davis' perspective just got darker and darker after that. lee himself had lost arlington, his home, which wasn't really his home, it was his wife's home, but it was the closest thing he had to a home, ever. he lost his wife, who was trapped behind enemy lines during most of that spring. he had one daughter behind enemy lines. all of his investments. lee was pretty shrewd. he invested in state bonds and railroad bonds, but most of those bonds were in places like kentucky and missouri. he wrote to his oldest son, i expect to be a pauper if i get through the war. so, how can this man be influential of anything?
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how can he be "times" person of the year? well, i think some of it had to do with his frustration. and his learning experience of traveling about and seeing what can go wrong. experiencing murphy's law over and over and over again. he responded to doom and gloom and desperation, and i think he learned that the confederacy was going to have to have radical, desperate and daring action. and lee responded with just that. he created just about the most significant legislation in the confederacy. i think this ranks only a click behind the commitment in march of 1865 to accept african-american soldiers in the confederate army.
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but after that comes the draft, the first draft in north america, anywhere. the united states followed up and used lee's i think legislation as a model a year later, but with the it a of charles marshall, his aide, lee wrote the first draft law ever passed in north america. and realize what this does. in the wake of fort sumter way back in 1861, there was a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of people flocked to the colors and joined the army. how long do they join for? three months, six months? a year was the standard.
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now it's the campaigns of 1862 are getting ready to begin. a year is up, and traditionally in american military, when it's -- when your time for which you have volunteered is up, you leave. you just pat yourself -- hey, you guys, good luck. see you later. hope you get home. and that was true. i mean, when winfield scott is approaching the gates of mexico, a bunch of indiana volunteers, their team is up, and nobody even questioned the fact that they're going to go home. and scott even worked to get them home before the yellow fever season, to get them through veracruz and get some reinforcements in to replace them. i mean, they factored this into military thinking in the united states.
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and the confederate states shared this tradition. so, if you don't have a draft or some kind of legislation, you don't have an army to defend the confederate states of america. well, lee said everybody has an obligation to serve, and 18 to 35, later raised to 45, and there had to be exemptions. and realize what this does, this makes the war department -- puts them in control of the confederate economy, the industrial war industry economy. because you control labor just like the war department would control raw materials and also try to control transportation. it set the stage for the closest thing to a managed economy that
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the american continent had ever seen. i think. and this from the confederacy. this is part of that internal revolution that creates what i suggest was at least a would-be confederate nation. after this lee saved richmond and the government and the war. from a collection of dominos. we know that in march of 1862 the "css virginia," the merrimack, sallied forth and raised holy hell with union ships. sank one, grounded another, and then fought a duel with the monitor in hampton rhodes. after that there was a series of
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sort of shadowboxing between the virginia and the monitor, but the "virginia" stationed itself so it could control access to the mouth of the james river. on may 9th, 1862, in his infinite wisdom, joe johnson in retreating up the peninsula from the yorktown line, abandoned norfolk. we can't hold norfolk if we're withdrawing up the peninsula. now, and abraham lincoln it was himself who was down at fort monroe and said, excuse me, guys, if they've abandoned norfolk, why don't we take it? it was the closest thing lincoln ever came to field command.
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in any event, the united states captures norfolk. this means the "merrimack," the "virginia" is a ship without a port and realized it's got to have coal in order to travel its little six knots per hour. so, on may 11th, i believe it was, the crew of the "virginia" had to scuttle her. this means the mouth of the james river is wide open. union troops or the union navy can sally up the james. and lee, you know, connects these dominos. you lose norfolk. you lose the "virginia." the james is open. and here come five union ships with the "monitor," another ironclad and some wooden ships and they're steaming up the james.
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lee it was who sent his son, custas, to command some troops at a place called drury's bluff about seven miles downriver from richmond. there is a bluff there. it's not that high, but it's high. high enough so that the "monitor's" guns wouldn't reach, couldn't elevate to fire on the confederates and indeed some of those guns were manned by a crew from the "css virginia." so, these guys got a chance to shoot at the "monitor" again and stop it along with sunken vessels and obstructions in the river keep it on may 15th from shelling richmond from, you know, the richmond port, rockets. so, all lee has done thus far is write this legislation that
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became the first draft law passed in april. and then in may he saved richmond by sending some people down with guns to drury's bluff. but he's still got to confront george clinton mcclellan and 105,000 union soldiers, who as we know have landed at fort monroe, have encountered the yorktown line. decided to approach it with, quote, regular defenses. that means slow. they're ready to move in early may, and, yes, they move. but this time joe johnston has begun a withdrawal up the peninsula and there's a not a dry sock in the union army. that's the way they describe the effect of the weather on troop movement.
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lee by this time has adopted, and actually jefferson davis as well, the strategy of the offensive defense, that is, allow the enemy to penetrate your soil. initially jefferson davis said we'll not give up a single inch of our soil. well, that's impractical. and it didn't work out that way either. so, you allow the enemy to penetrate, but then you -- in circumstance of your choosing when the enemy is lost or has made a mistake or can be numbered or you can attack the enemy's fractions with your mast, you attack, the offense. go on the offense. davis believed in that strategy i think, and this is gravely
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oversimplified, davis said we will outwill the united states. we will exist. every day we exist we're winning. the united states is losing every day we survive. and the longer we exist, the more regular we will seem to the rest of the world and even to our enemies. and if all else fails, we will just abandon conventional modern war, take to the hills, and be guerrillas. davis is anticipating post-modern warfare. imagine. good old boys as vietcong or i.r.a. or other post-modern forms of warfare. and this is what davis


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